By Alonso Melgar
CALGARY — Director Steve Yu’s intimate documentary on Jake Roberts opens with a who’s who of the wrestling world – Stone Cold Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, Ted DiBiase and Jim Ross, all describing the mystique and impact Roberts had on the industry while wrestling for the WWF in the ‘80s. Unable to face his personal demons, Roberts soon fell into the world of drugs and alcohol. He went from wrestling in front of 93,000 people at the Pontiac Silverdome to living in a shambled house, crippled with injuries and possessed by alcoholism.
The Resurrection…. documents former wrestler Diamond Dallas Page (founder of DDP Yoga) inviting Jake to live with him in his home. The two undergo an intense physical and dietary regiment with the end goal of getting Roberts back in shape, and sober. The concept works so well that fellow down-and-out wrestler Scott Hall is also invited to partake in the routine and undergoes his own journey to redemption.
The film captures some tense moments as relapses occur and arguments explode.
It’s here where Yu displays an overreliance on standard filmmaking techniques to try and get an emotional reaction. Musical cues pipe in at a distracting rate – we don’t need to hear a sappy piano piece to paint for us the emotion of a scene; we can see it in our subject’s eyes, and hear it in their voice. Roberts has a wondrous way with words (he’s often heralded as one of the best talkers in the history of the industry) and the pathos of the movie comes from hearing him describe his struggles in his own words, his voice should be allowed to ring through and resonate. The film also cuts numerous times to talking head confessionals which ultimately do little to add to the impact of a scene, merely taking you out of it.
Hardly any attention is given to the path that led Jake to hit rock bottom. Those looking for an in-depth look at life as a professional wrestler will have to look elsewhere. Instead, Yu focuses on the current journey, leaving the past behind. Fitting for a documentary about individuals seeking to let go and move forward. “There’s a reason the rear view mirror is so small,” Hall remarks at one point.
This method also helps to establish Resurrection as more than just a movie about a wrestler. It strips away the mythos of the performer and puts a spotlight on the man. Roberts has an unflinching honesty about his life, he acknowledges the frailty of his situation but dives headfirst into the gruelling process of simply trying to live happily after years of hardship. Witnessing his journey creates a strong bond between him and the audience, and it’s that bond that stays with you after the credits roll.AB, Alberta, Calgary Underground Film Festival, CUFF, CUFF 2015, Jake the Snake, Resurrection of Jake The Snake, WWF